Debatable Catch Gives Florida a 27-23 Win

From Associated Press

No. 6-ranked Florida ended No. 11 Tennessee’s home winning streak at 23, winning, 27-23, on a play that will be debated for a long time.

With 14 seconds remaining and a Neyland Stadium record crowd of 108,768 cheering on the Tennessee defense, Florida had a first-and-goal at the three when Jesse Palmer passed to Jabar Gaffney in the end zone.

Gaffney had the ball for an instant and then dropped it as he was surrounded by two defenders. But line judge Al Matthews ruled Gaffney made the catch, and stuck with the call after conferring with referee Al Ford.

“I had it long enough for it to be a touchdown,” said Gaffney, who finished with six catches for 91 yards.


Cornerback Willie Mills, who knocked the ball loose, said, “I saw the ball fall. I’m not a ref. What I think doesn’t matter. The Gators won but the world knows about the last play. I thought they were going to overrule. I don’t think they were sure.”

The officials were not available for comment.

Gator Coach Steve Spurrier said, “No question, God was smiling on us because the other team outplayed us.”

Florida, 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference, has defeated Tennessee (1-1, 0-1) in seven of their last eight meetings. Tennessee won, 20-17, in overtime in 1998 and the Gators won last year, 23-21.


“Right now our pride is hurt,” Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer said, “and we’re really disappointed.”

No. 25 Southern Mississippi 21, No. 15 Alabama 0--UCLA’s victory over the Crimson Tide three weeks ago isn’t looking quite as impressive after the Golden Eagles shut out Alabama at Birmingham, Ala.

Alabama (1-2), off to its worst start since going 0-3 in 1990, had only 118 yards in total offense through three quarters and had four turnovers in the game, with two leading to scores for Mississippi State (1-1).

Raymond Wall returned an interception 54 yards and Joe Henley returned a fumble 18 yards for touchdowns in the first half.


No. 24 Auburn 34, Louisiana State 17--The Tigers (3-0, 2-0) got their first SEC win at home since 1997, and they did it before a record crowd of 85,613 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Ben Leard threw two touchdown passes and Tim Carter ran back a kickoff 100 yards for a score for Auburn.

The loss was a step back for LSU (2-1, 0-1), which had outscored nonconference opponents, 86-13, in its first two games.

Rudi Johnson gained 139 yards in 36 carries, making him the first Auburn back to run for more than 100 yards in three straight games since Stephen Davis did it in 1994.


Mississippi 12, Vanderbilt 7--Deuce McAllister rushed for 143 yards in 17 carries, including 121 yards in the first half, before leaving with an injured shoulder as the Rebels (2-1, 1-1) held off the Commodores (0-3, 0-2) in an SEC game at Nashville.

McAllister set a Mississippi record with his 11th career 100-yard rushing game, but bruised the joint in his right shoulder late in the third quarter and did not play in the fourth.

Vanderbilt had a chance at winning the game in the closing seconds, but Greg Zolman overthrew receivers in the end zone on the final two plays.

The game was the 1,000th in Ole Miss football history. The Rebels’ first game was Nov. 11, 1893, and they have gone 554-411-35 since.


Arkansas 38, Boise State 31--Defensive back D Ross, fooled by Robby Hampton’s pump fake, fell as he switched directions and Boo Williams trotted into the end zone on a 54-yard touchdown pass play that helped the Razorbacks (2-0) defeat the Broncos (2-0) at Little Rock, Ark.

The touchdown broke a 31-31 tie with 6:12 to play.

Boise State had a chance to tie the game again, but receiver Jay Swillie was tackled at the one on a fourth-and-goal from the nine with slightly more than a minute to play.

South Carolina 41, Eastern Michigan 6--Derek Watson ran for a career-high 215 yards and three touchdowns to lead Lou Holtz’s Gamecocks (3-0) over the Eagles (1-2) at Columbia, S.C.